November 28, 2014

Unemployment rate is better, not good enough

The state’s jobless rate is below 6 percent, but that’s still not good enough for one advocate for the poor.

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) is the statewide association for several agencies whose focus is to eliminate poverty in Wisconsin. Executive Director Bob Jones is encouraged by the lower unemployment rate of just 5.9 percent, but he’s not celebrating just yet. “I’m old-fashioned. When I grew up, there was a crisis if the unemployment rate was over 4 percent.” Wisconsin hasn’t seen jobless rates below 6 percent since 2008. “That’s still too high, in my opinion; I think it’s going in the right direction.”

Jones says it’s important to take into consideration all the workers who would love a job but stopped looking. Also, he says, the quality of the job is important. People need to be able to earn enough to get by. “If you work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty,” he says, “It doesn’t matter if the unemployment rate is 2 percent; if the jobs we’re creating don’t pay living wages, don’t provide people a step out of poverty … it doesn’t matter.”

The state’s unemployment rate got as high as 9.2 percent in 2010.

In 2011, more than 367,000 low-income and working poor residents turned to association members for assistance, striving for economic self-sufficiency.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:21